By Lane Moore, Contributor
[Fueled By Ramen; 2018]
Key tracks: “Jumpsuit”, “Leave the City”
One thing is apparent after exploring the newest Twenty One Pilots release, Trench: you either die an incredible band or sell out enough to put dubstep in your music (*cough cough* Fall Out Boy). With production being one of the only positive components of the record, that in itself is merely an extension of radio rock readiness. Many of the same dynamics which brought the duo’s 2016 album Blurryface success were used on this effort. However, many of these ideas were either unchanged or simplified. In addition, their lyrical content has shown little to no progression, and the theme of sadness has been beaten into a benign and gray paste.
Read more: Album Review: Fall Out Boy – M A N I A
The production of Paul Meany and Tyler Joseph emulates the sonic dimensions of a massive space, but the dynamics of each song are consistent for the entire 56 minutes. Boundaries were not set by studio capabilities. Instead, the band’s own creativity established the sonic limits of the record. That being said, the most interesting track on Trench is “Jumpsuit”. It features a killer bassline, a booming punk rock drum beat and one of the few interesting uses of synthesizers. This was the only time the words “oh damn” crossed my mind while listening to Trench.
Other than that instance, most of the record is as if Imagine Dragons reached out a hand and said “TOP, I am your father; Come be uninteresting with me.” It’s packaged and processed in the radio-friendly factory with uncompelling lyrics such as “Sippin’ on straight chlorine / Let the vibe slide over me / This beat is a chemical, beat is a chemical” (“Chlorine”). The simplicity of TOP’s content is a shortcoming on almost every track, and it is apparent that the band is caught between creating a concept record and creating something easy to listen to. Even with its references to Zoroastrianism and the fictional settings created by Joseph, words in their vernacular like “vibe” and “hype” make some tracks feel as shallow as a tweet.
The instrumentation of the album is comparable to the band’s lyrical content. For a duo in which one member, Josh Dun, is completely dedicated to percussion, a lack of drum fills and transitions is constantly looming over each track, and the monotonous synth instruments are constantly stuck somewhere between mezzo forte and forte. Meanwhile, Joseph is busy repeating the same uninspired lyrics over and over. Seriously, “The Hype” repeats the same chorus five times, “Cut My Lip” repeats the same stanza six times and “Bandito” does so eight times. Instead of tasteful anaphora, listeners are left with hooks that fizzle out in their own redundancy rather than exploding.
While all of the aforementioned things are quite negative, there is one last thing that is truly despicable: Sadness is not a Hot Topic t-shirt. Their pseudo-darkness is stretched so far that it is thin enough to simultaneously be transparent and appeal to 13-year-old pseudo-edgy middle schoolers. In reality, Trench is the antithesis of edgy. Depression is not a fashion, and TOP’s faux “darkness” has been so overdone that it is nothing other than pure misery. With releases like Trench flooding the music industry, it is clear that we need ska now more than ever.
Ska will never die.